Knowing what and what not to send in a mil itary care package before sending items to a loved one or a friend in the US military service ensures you’re doing it properly and not getting them in trouble.
Your care package shouldn’t contain items like nail polish, dry ice, fresh food, alcoholic drinks, tobacco or vape products, pornography, and any kind of weapons.
Continue reading to learn about other prohibited items and regulations related to sending military service members tokens from home.
Table of Contents
- List of Items to Avoid
- What to Send in a Military Care Package
- What Troops Really Want in Care Packages
- Military Care Package Ideas
- Cheapest Way to Send Military Care Packages
- Frequently Asked Questions
List of Items to Avoid
Friends and families often send care packages to their loved ones in the service stationed abroad, in another state, or send to soldiers in basic training.
It might sound simple enough, but as with every organizations, especially in the military, some rules and regulations service members’ loved ones need to adhere to as well.
1. The rules and regulations
If you are going to use the United States Postal Service or USPS, general rules, regulations, and restrictions apply the same as with other regular packages sent through the service. International and local shipping restrictions could vary depending on where you are going to send your package.
As an example, if you plan to send food to military overseas, it is important to know the restrictions in that country before sending deployed soldiers care packages. In the middle east, pork or any of its products is strictly prohibited.
Here’s a brief list of international shipping restrictions:
1. Restricted Items:
- Ammunition & explosives
- Aerosol Products
- Dry Ice
- Nail Polish
- Alcohol-based Perfumes
- Poisonous items
2. Food & Beverage:
- Fresh Fruits
- Alcoholic Beverages (Beer, Wine, Spirits, etc)
4. Specific to Muslim countries (Middle East):
- Pork or by-products
Check this updated 2023 complete list of general restrictions applied to all APO (Air/Army Post Office), FPO (Fleet Post Office) and DPO (Diplomatic Post Office). You can also enter the zip code of the specific deployment here and learn about locations-based restrictions.
2. What not to do
Now that you have a general idea of what items are restricted in sending military care packages, it’s time to focus on what to put in and how to package them properly.
- Do not overpack. Make sure your care package is properly packed. If the box is bulging, then it’s over-packed.
- Do not rush. Carefully plan the items you want to include in order to save time and money. Also, talk to the service member to gain insight into what they really want or need.
- Do not just put random stuff in and hope for the best. It’s called a “care” package for a reason. Put your best effort into it; personalize it to show the effort and care you put into arranging and putting together the package.
- Don’t use just any delivery provider. Compare prices and promotions of package delivery services. You might be surprised how rates differ from company to company.
- Do not just rely on general military guidelines. Check restrictions in the area of deployment, and department-specific rules. Look out for terms like “navy care package restrictions” or “Navy care package rules” during your research.
3. Military Restrictions
Aside from shipping restrictions, the Military also has a list of items that are considered contraband. For example, if you have a military boyfriend and you are planning to include adult material in your care package for boyfriend in military, this is considered contraband.
4. Items considered contraband
- Adult materials – Pornography of any format is not allowed
- Weapons – Small pocket knives are excluded and are allowed
- Alcoholic Beverages – You cannot send alcohol
- Carbonated drinks – Drinks that come in pressurized packaging like some energy drinks are not allowed
- Political paraphernalia or materials – Military policy does not allow service members to display any political party allegiance
- Inappropriate clothing – Clothes with flagrant words on it are not allowed. Depending on the country of deployment, clothes that show too much skin are not allowed as well, especially for female service members.
- E-cigarettes, Vape devices, and tobacco products – Any product containing tobacco is not allowed, to send chewing tobacco is also prohibited
What to Send in a Military Care Package
Although contents of care packages could differ depending on the needs or requests of the service member, there are, however, obvious necessities such as socks, slippers, underwear, and toiletries.
That said, it is also important that you understand their current deployment. Whether the service member is on active duty or in basic training, the contents of the Navy, Air Force, or Army care package could differ.
For example, A military care package list for people still undergoing basic training could include a hiking snack or to send liquids refreshments are good ideas since they are always on the go.
Another good idea is to include a note or checklist of the care package contents. Write it out or print it on a card so your service member can have a guide and easily go through the care package.
1. Food, Drinks, and Snacks
As service members are always active, sending quick protein sources are always appreciated. Pack energy bars, canned tuna, or dried, USDA-labeled beef jerky and sausages. Single-packet servings of condiments such as mustard, hot sauce, or mayonnaise to improve their rationed MREs are also a good idea.
For snacks like cookies, nuts, or chips, consider either going for snacks that are packaged in small, sturdy containers versus the ones in inflated bags to avoid bursting during transit or under the pressure of the entire care package. If you can’t find their favorite snacks in hard containers, you can always repackage them into smaller zip-lock bags.
Consider the weather when sending candies, chocolates, and other food items that might melt if the service member is serving in a place with a warm climate.
- Include extra zip lock bags. By including extra bags, your service member can repackage the snack into smaller more manageable sizes to bring out into the field while they’re on duty.
- Powdered drink mixes. But keep in mind the weather, if they are stationed somewhere where the weather is currently warm when your care package arrives, it’s best to include cold drink powdered mixes like lemonades or iced teas.
Alternatively, if it’s cold, it’s a good idea to send more ready mixes suitable for the weather, like cocoa mixes, teas, or coffee.
2. Other items to include in your care package
To help with homesickness, consider adding personal items to your care package. These include family pictures, kids’ notes or artwork, video messages from friends and family, or anything from home.
If you have extra space in your package, including allowed forms of entertainment is also a good idea. Here are some examples:
- Notepads, pens, pencils, and envelopes
- Phone cards
- Books, Graphic Novels, Magazines, etc
- Games: Board games, cards, puzzles, game consoles, etc
- Sports equipment: Footballs, frisbees, or basketballs
- Gadgets and devices: Music players, cameras, Bose military care package, etc
Pro Tip: Service members always need batteries. If you are including a device requiring batteries, remove them from the device to avoid accidentally draining the battery.
What Troops Really Want in Care Packages
Service members need toiletries and other personal items for hygiene.
While arranging and packing these products as something for soldiers, make sure you check if they are sealed and will not cause any spillage inside your package. For liquid products that could potentially spill, reinforce packaging with cling wrap or additional tape.
Toiletries could include:
- Soap, Shampoo, and lotion
- Extra underwear and socks
- Toothpaste, Extra toothbrush, Floss, and other dental products
- Medicine such as paracetamol and over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin
- Shaving cream, Razor, and cologne or aftershave
- Tissue, wipes, and hand sanitizers
- Feminine self-care products
- Foot care products such as powder, or medicated ointments
For service members deployed in dry or warm countries, such as middle eastern countries, toiletries and personal items could include:
- Special desert eyewear or sunglasses
- Lip balm
- Eye drops
For colder climates:
- Gloves or hand warmers
- Head warmers
- Warm underwear
Military Care Package Ideas
Keeping in mind the current restriction of where your service member is deployed, here are a few ideas for your next care package.
- Themed Care Packages
Personalize and decorate your care package based on specific events or celebrations. Themed care packages could reflect any occasion, christmas care package, birthday care package, or a special milestone in your family like pregnancy or graduation, your imagination is the only limit.
- Gift Registries
You and your service member could also sign up and set up a gift registry. Wish and Amazon both have this service wherein service members could just keep adding things they need or want.
Convenience is the name of the game and registries are commonly set up to be easily integrated to your social media accounts or shared at a click of a button, making it easier for you, friends, and family to view and add your service member’s requests or needs.
- There is No Place Like Home
Sending real homemade goodness could be the best thing for anyone who is all across the globe. Baking cookies by yourself and shipping them to your service members as a part of their deployment gifts makes their homesickness a little more bearable.
Making your care package as personal as you can; including as many items like pictures and personal items, brings your service member closer to home and conveys that you miss them as well.
- Writing Kits
Sending letters remains a classic. Everyone is happy to receive something handwritten from family or friends.
To continue the correspondence, create a small writing kit that includes all the materials they might need like, stationery, paper, inks, pens, and envelopes. For service members stationed abroad, these materials are in very high demand.
- Pre-made Military Care Packages
There are services that offer pre-made care packages like this one from Hero Care Packages. They have options for different types, depending on sizes and package inclusions.
Prices could range based on the type of options you choose and your destination. Most of them also offer the option to customize your package. The advantage of pre-made care packages is you don’t need to build, arrange, and ship them yourself.
Cheapest Way to Send Military Care Packages
Currently, the cheapest way to send a military care package is through the USPS Flat Rate boxes. No matter what you put inside the box, you will only be charged one price, which is $16 for the large box.
Refer to these free packaging materials:
- Option 1: The USPS also offers a “Military Care Package Kit”, which includes the necessary forms, and tape to seal your boxes.
These come in all sizes and are all for free and you can get as many kits as you need by calling USPS at 1-800-610-8734. Keep in mind that supplies might take a week to get shipped to you.
- Option 2: Through the USPS website, you can order any quantity of Flat Rate Boxes marked FPO/APO and customs forms, shipped to you in a week all for free.
The USPS offers other free shipping materials.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you send military care packages for free?
How to send military care packages for free? There are non-profit and charity organizations dedicated to helping out our troops. Some offer free care package services that families, service members, and friends can avail of.
Move America Forward is a non-profit organization where you can request to have a care package sent to a service member or his or her family.
Can you send red bull?
No. Energy drinks that are carbonated or packaged in pressurized containers are not allowed to be shipped in care packages.
Knowing what not to send in a military care package could spare you much grief.
Making sure you are properly informed about the processes, restrictions, and rules can make sending a care package to your loved ones in the service a stress-free expression of how much you miss and care for them.
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